The Lateran Treaties: a Step in Vatican Policy

Vatican City, 1929.


ONE of the commonest criticisms made of the recent Lateran Treaties is that they have bartered away the Papacy's temporal power and the grandiose imprisonment in which it had been prospering for nearly sixty years, in exchange for advantages which are of concern to the Italian Church only -- in a word, that the Vatican has sacrificed its universal mission to its peculiarly Italian interests.

Those who share this view fall into the error of taking the Concordat of February 11 as an isolated document unrelated to the numerous similar agreements made by the Roman Church in our times and in a remoter past. As a matter of fact, the general policy of the Church is not susceptible to narrow limitations in time and space. More than any other policy it holds its past experience in mind, making each new step follow logically from those before it, coördinating each measure rigidly with all its others. The concordats of the nineteenth century show the power of the Church advancing in the face of all sorts of difficulties and vicissitudes toward the formulae which the Church is using today; and the concordats of the twentieth century reveal that the texts which Mussolini has recently signed for Italy translate into action purposes already realized by the Church in divers other places.

In the course of its history the Papacy has never been able to monopolize civil power save over very small territories or during very brief periods. More often threatened than threatening, more often encroached upon than encroaching, it has frequently been obliged to come to terms with secular states regarding the application of canon law. Hence a long series of concordats running back as far as the twelfth century (Concordat of Worms, 1122), which were made possible only because the Church was willing to abate its claims in the temporal sphere and the state its claims in the spiritual sphere, in order that both might negotiate on a footing of equality regardless of

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